Monday, August 5, 2013

A Good Old Fashioned Summer Vacation

It was wonderful to step aside from our busy lives and go on a relaxed vacation for a week on Lake Delton, two hours north of Milwaukee. We stayed in a four-bedroom condo (score! Each kid had their own room!) with its own sandy swimming beach and pool, which we played in for hours every day. Before he was even out of the car, Charlie said, "This is the best vacation ever!" God, I love that kid.
Since we were in the Wisconsin Dells, there were tons of activities and restaurants at our fingertips, but we mostly stayed off the beaten track and enjoyed quiet family days. Here are some of the highlights:
  • Almost every day, we staged some type of treasure hunt down on the beach (we told them Lake Delton was part of a known pirate route in the 1600's). Rob or I would sneak down and deposit pirate coins, tiny brass telescopes, pirate keys, or a handful of jewels at the water's edge. The anticipation mounted. Finally, on the last morning of our trip, we tucked a pirate map with three compasses in the rocks near the water, which the kids then used to discover buried pirate treasure! Their excitement was unbridled as they read the handwritten note from Blackburn on the back of the map and followed the winding path through the sand, which led right to an "X" made out of rocks and sticks. Charlie yelled, "This was my wish come true!" The best part was that about three minutes after they unearthed the treasure, a duck came up on the beach. Someone yelled "duck!!" and they were on to the next thing. Rob and I found this to be absolutely hilarious. Madeline still calls our trip, "The Pirate Vacation" when she references it. It blew her mind. I love listening to her show friends the treasure during playdates.
Look at that expression. This was even more fun for us than them!
  • We went to a family farm, owned by a humble couple named Charlie and Cindy, out in the countryside, where we picked sweet ripe blueberries and raspberries, raced pedal cars, bought just-picked watermelon, took turns on a zip-line, licked ice-cream cones, and played in all the miniature buildings that Charlie built by hand, including a school house, a barn, even a replica of their home on the property. In the white steepled church, our little Charlie led us in Vacation Bible School songs while we sat in tiny pews. We brought a fresh berry pie home that night and ate it for dessert with fried chicken and biscuits.
  • We had a bit of excitement one afternoon on our walk home from the beach. Charlie tripped on his towel, splitting his chin open on the pavement a full centimeter; he ended up needing three stitches. I actually cut his Polo shirt off his body -- he was terrified of pulling it over his head. It took four of us to hold him down in the ER; he had broken capillaries in his eyes from crying and straining so hard. On the drive home, I offered to buy him a chocolate milkshake because he was so brave; he insisted that we bring home shakes for everyone in our family. He couldn't get the stitches wet for the next couple of days, which made swimming in the pool a little tricky, but he was a great sport.
Proudly showing off his stitches the next day
  • One afternoon while John napped, Madeline and Charlie helped me pitch our tent outside. We put a air mattress on the ground and filled it with books, snacks, crayons and pillows. The kids begged to have their "quiet time" together outside every day.
  • We took Madeline, Charlie and John on a Duck ride -- the trucks-turned-boats that were developed for World War II. It barreled through the woods on a narrow winding path, crashed right into Lake Delton, motored past our condo, then rolled right back up on dry land again. Despite the jerking bumps, deafening engine noise and loud tour guide, John slept through the whole thing.
John slept the entire time, even as we crashed in and out of water
  • We did several touristy things that we knew the kids would love, but we purposely arrived way before the crowds. The very first morning, we took them to Paul Bunyon's Cook Shanty for a hearty breakfast (we waltzed in; by the time we left, there were at least 100 people in line). We also squeezed in a marathon round of putt-putt golf, and visited the Deer Park, where hundreds of the gentle creatures let us pet and feed them.

  •  We watched our family movies on the projector and movie screen that we gave Rob for his birthday! The kids love seeing themselves as babies growing up! Afterwards, we roasted S'mores in a fire pit.
Family movies on the projector
  • Rob and I worked on a puzzle every night after the kids went to sleep, listening to country music mixes that other people created on Spotify. One night, we heard a song -- Sic em on a Chicken by the Zac Brown Band -- that cracked us up, and we played it for the kids the next day (it's about a dog that chases the chickens). It became our vacation theme song and we still play it all the time.
We had such a wonderful time, being silly and resting as a family. Can't wait until our next trip!
John imitates everything.
Madeline and I had a quiet afternoon building castles at the beach

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